When I was in fourth grade, I developed a habit of telling every adult I met all the things I had accomplished. Not only that day or that week, but literally everything I had ever accomplished. As I was a still somewhat adorable nine-year-old girl, this behavior — although not idealized — was tolerated, and even supported at times. However, when I was still doing at 15, all it made me was unpopular.
It wasn’t until I was applying for my first post-college job that my mentor at the time explained to me that being busy wasn’t the same as accomplishing something. I was shell-shocked; how could she sit there and tell me I hadn’t done anything? I knew that I had been working hard, and after taking a few breaths, I acknowledged that she was right. Somewhere along the line, I had stopped articulating my impact and accomplishments.
That night, I went home and in my journal wrote a list of what I was proud of. I found myself digging deep and assessing real change that I could attribute to my hard work. The next day, as I presented my mentor with my updated resume, I had a moment of feeling guilty, as if sharing what I had done was wrong and impolite. I felt like I was bragging, and bragging was wrong. My mentor exclaimed that my resume was in much better shape, and that moment of validation changed everything.
Nearly every week, there will come a moment, over drinks or maybe even in the locker room at the gym, where the women I’m speaking to, no matter their age or socioeconomic status, will say meekly, “I don’t want to toot my own horn…” and then in a voice barely above a whisper mention a recent success they’ve had.
As young women (and men), if we can’t share our successes with our friends and family, then how can we expect to ace the next interview? Seal the deal on a new opportunity? Or impress a new supervisor or contact? The ability to share your accomplishments in a way that is palatable is a skill successful people leverage on a daily basis. So how do you enhance your ability to articulate your awesome? Here are a few ideas:
Write it out
Do you know what you’ve accomplished? If you just read that sentence and then looked off into the distance because you aren’t sure how to answer, I suggest taking the next 10 minutes to write out a bulleted list of what you’ve done (at work or outside of work) that you’re proud of.
Once you finish this first list, take another 10 minutes to go through the list and add some facts and figures to it to flesh it out and make it more substantial. For example, “contacted various media outlets to pitch new digital content” would be stronger as, “cultivated 20 new international media relationships which lead to five new content partnerships.” “Worked with young women on self-esteem and empowerment issues” would be stronger as, “developed a personal development curriculum to support teen girls in identifying their strengths and increasing their self-esteem.”
Once you have a personal understanding of what work you’re doing in the world and can articulate that work, you’re a step closer to being able to share your accomplishments.
Practice with strangers
Now that you have the language and maybe even a little more pride in what you’ve done, it’s time to practice talking about it out loud. When I was in junior high school, I had a small part in the musical Hello, Dolly! During one of our rehearsals, the director told me to put down my script because I was using it as a crutch — I knew the words and needed to live them and really feel them. I am now passing this sage wisdom on to you.
The best way to get comfortable talking about your successes is to talk about your successes. (Click here to tweet this thought.) The next time you find yourself on a plane, strike up a conversation with the person in the seat next to you and see how you can mention something you’re proud of. Test your personal success story telling ability with the woman who sits next to you on the bus every day. Try it again and again so you can get cozy with shining a bit brighter.
Don’t apologize for being awesome
Now that you’re able to articulate your awesomeness and have practiced this new skill with people you may never meet again, you’re ready for the hardest part. When you find yourself sitting with your bestie at the manicure place and she’s asking work is going? Toot your own horn! Let her know what you’ve been up to, and encourage her to share also. Make it a part of your relationships with your friends to share your successes — that way, when it’s time to share your accomplishments with the recruiter for the company you’d love to work for, you’re ready and able to share your value add.
Simone N. Sneed is a social entrepreneur building the capacity of women and girls and the institutions that empower them to discover and leverage their full potential. You can learn more about her work at www.adviceforabrilliantlife.com or @catchbrilliance.